Mauka mauka: Sorry India, but the 2018 Asia Cup is coming home to Pakistan

Published: September 11, 2018
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When it comes to matches between Pakistan and India, it is always hard to predict the winner, as both are two of the best and yet most unpredictable teams in the world.

The 14th edition of Asia Cup begins on September 15th in the UAE, making this the third time the tournament will be held there. This time, Pakistan, India and Hong Kong are together in Group A, while Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are in Group B. Despite having lost its ODI status earlier this year, Hong Kong qualified by defeating the UAE in the qualifying final.

If somehow both teams manage to make it to the final, then this tournament potentially includes three Pakistan versus India matches. However, the million dollar question remains: will it be India or Pakistan lifting the trophy?

The strongest contender for this year’s title is Pakistan, and no, that’s not because Virat Kohli’s absence will leave India with a weaker batting side. While Kohli will be missed and his absence will undeniably drop India’s chances, nonetheless, I would argue Pakistan would emerge the stronger team even if Kohli was playing.

What makes Pakistan the likely winner?    

Pakistan’s pace battery in the squad remains their biggest strength. Currently, Mohammad Amir, Junaid Khan and Hasan Ali would be my choice for the three front line bowlers, while Usman Shinwari and Shaheen Afridi can come into play in case of injury or if the management decides to rest any of the main bowlers.

Shadab Khan is a match-winner – he can bowl, bat and field. After all, no cricket fan can forget his glorious catch that ousted Kohli. And while Shadab made it look so easy, I bet any of our other fielders would have dropped the opportunity. His batting also continues to impress, while as an attacking spinner, he can take key wickets when required. Shadab is unafraid to take risks and is sure of himself, as seen in the way he convinced his captain to risky review in a high pressure match, and these are skills that will come useful for the team when playing against India once again.

In short, Shadab is a live wire in the field and can turn the match in Pakistan’s favour with his clever bowling and gutsy batting.

Fakhar Zaman will be another key factor for Pakistan. A real asset to the team, his quick runs at the top are very handy, and if he scores a big one once again, then we call all bid goodbye to India. However, as playing dot ball after dot ball puts pressure on the other end, Imamul Haq will thus need to play with a good strike rate to keep play steady.

Faheem Ashraf, the bowling all-rounder, has provided this team with some much needed balance. He can be the fourth seam bowler and smash some big sixes as he bats down the order.

Faheem Ashraf celebrates as Scotland’s Richie Berrington is out for 20 during the Second International T20 match at The Grange, Edinburgh. Photo: Getty

Pakistan was desperate to find a big hitter, and have finally found one in the shape of Asif Ali. Sarfraz Ahmed and Mickey Arthur should definitely be brave enough to float him up the order when the situation demands it.

Shoaib Malik with Asif Ali after victory in action during the final of the tri-series played between Pakistan and Australia in a T20 tri-series on July 8 2018. Photo: Getty

Lastly, Shoaib Malik is always dangerous against spinners, which is why it will be interesting to see how he plays against Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal. If Pakistan can negate this spin combo, nothing can stop them from beating their arch rivals!

What are India’s chances?

Looking at the Indian team, openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan will have to perform well if India is to be successful in this tournament, for they will have to fill the void left by Kohli. Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the most experienced player in the current Indian team, has lost his power-hitting ability and is no longer the Dhoni of old who could change the match with his swashbuckling batting. Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar will try their best to restrain Zaman, for once he gets going there’s no mercy for the bowlers. Thus a lot of responsibility rests on the shoulders of this Indian bowling pair.

Bowling continues to be Pakistan’s strength, but with Zaman, Malik and Sarfraz and the addition of hitters like Asif, Shadab and Ashraf, Pakistan’s batting lineup looks more balanced than ever. The only thing the management needs to do is be smarter and less rigid about the lineup. There’s no point in sending Babar Azam when you are only two down with 15 overs to go.

One thing I absolutely cannot wait for is the battle between Sharma and Amir. However, perhaps calling it a battle would be an insult to Amir, as he has dominated Sharma throughout their interaction and made him eat his own words. After all, calling Amir a “normal bowler” resulted in two ducks and few nice words for the Indian opener. In total, Amir has dismissed Sharma three times and has bowled 49 balls, on which Sharma has been able to score only 19 runs. Ordinary bowler? Yeah, right.

Mohammad Amir successfully appeals for the wicket of Rohit Sharma of India during the ICC Champions Trophy Final between India and Pakistan on June 18, 2017. Photo: Getty

At the end of the day, the ‘favourite’ tag has never really worked for Pakistan. On the contrary, Pakistan end up doing well when they are the underdogs and deliver subpar when they are the favourites. So to the men in green: please, do not relax or underestimate your opponents, because Pakistani fans cannot wait for you to not only bring another cup home, but also experience multiple victories over India!

When it comes to matches between Pakistan and India, it is always hard to predict the winner, as both are two of the best and yet most unpredictable teams in the world. However, one factor is certain: after experiencing a humiliating defeat in last year’s Champions Trophy final, despite being overconfident of a win, no former cricketer or the likes of Rishi Kapoor will be making statements declaring who is the father and who is the son.

Jawad Jamil

Jawad Jamil

The author is a cricket fanatic and fitness enthusiast. He tweets @jawadjamilbutt (twitter.com/jawadjamilbutt)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Saran
  • Inder S Bisht

    Very insightful and balanced article.Recommend

  • Lokesh Pathak

    even afghanistan will beat pakistan..dont worry about us like we beat u guys 11 times in world cup,,we will beat u on 19th tooo..ur batting is sooo weakRecommend

  • Stupid Intelligent

    Over confidence kills, but under confidence is for shills.Recommend

  • 19640909rk .

    Pakistan cannot even defeat Afghanistan.Recommend

  • Waqas

    A little biased article, you cannot put India completely out of the game. They are also coming to play with strong batting lineup even without Kohli. Dont forget in UAE almost all Asian teams can perform good because of home line condition.

    By the way Iam Pakistani and I also wants Pakistan to win but we all should be realistic as well.Recommend

  • Jay

    I have always wondered why are there no non Muslims in Pakistan team.Recommend

  • Asad Baig

    Too early to say anything……. Don’t write off other teams.Anybody who plays well on the day wins.Pakistan will be under more pressure to win all the time.Recommend

  • Parvez

    It matters not who wins ….. what matters is that the game should be played well so that those watching can enjoy the game and clap for both the winner and the loser.
    Making everything about India / Pakistan feeds and nourishes a mindset on both sides that does not benefit either.Recommend

  • Jawad Jamil

    Someone read the full article.Recommend

  • Inder S Bisht

    Bro, it was a sarcastic comment.Recommend

  • Jawad Jamil

    Good for you.Recommend

  • Vader
  • Rampravesh Upadhyay

    It’s not bad to support your team but author seems more excited and have tried to put his thoughts. But let’s wait for the day and see who is playing better on the day. Don’t underestimate Indian bowling lines specially the fast bowlers who are not the same some times back. I feel Virat is not good captain but he is one of the best batsman right now.
    But still we can’t say who would plan better.Recommend

  • Owais Khan

    you can join the selection committee to search for themRecommend

  • osama

    danish kaneria is hinduRecommend

  • Saqib Khan

    We all know pakistan is the father of india … So i think india will lose easily without kohli they cannot face pakistani pacers like Amir hassan and junaid .. they also beat from england 3-1 in odisRecommend

  • Sane

    Population of Muslims in India is 20%. While in Pakistan Hindus are in fraction of percentage, even less that 0.1%. Judge the proportion if it is the yardstick to see cricketers in team instead of talent and merit.Recommend

  • Sane

    Would you awake to come out of dream? Sharjah will always haunt Indians.Recommend

  • Jawad Jamil

    I don’t think its biased. And I’ve certainly not put India out of the game. If you read the complete article, I mentioned Pakistan never performs well when they are the favorites. Don’t judge the article by the title.Recommend

  • Jawad Jamil

    We will see about that.Recommend

  • Jawad Jamil

    I agree that India has improved their fast bowling but at the same time you cannot ignore the improvement in Pakistan’s ODI batting with the addition of Fakhar and big-hitter Asif Ali and all-rounders like Shadab and Faheem have been great additions in the limited overs format.Recommend

  • tkhan

    Very nice article. Hope we will see a good match everything depend on a match situation.Both are good teams.Recommend

  • Crickerfan

    Very good analysis, Pakistan has played alot of cricket in UAE recently that will help them too. no doubt Pakistan team is favorite but anything can happen in sports, team who will perform well on the day will win. Hopefully Pakistan wins :PRecommend

  • Hafsa

    Very well written! 👌Recommend

  • Pure ind

    The author seems to over excited. This indian team is the same team that thrashed SA in SA. Even in England they won the T20 & lost the ODI very closely.
    Pakistan is over confident about their performances against weak Zimbabwe. Indian team has played well & won against quality opponents. The champions trophy jasmit had got zaman it was a lucky no ball that he escaped otherwise result would have been different. This was the same pakistani team that was beaten by India in the round robin matches in champions trophy.Recommend

  • Waqas

    I have read the whole article thats why i am saying its a biased articleRecommend

  • tahreem shaukat

    May the best team win!Recommend

  • Rahul

    *”perhaps calling it a battle would be an insult to Amir, as he has dominated Sharma throughout their interaction and made him eat his own words”*

    Haha look who has to “eat their own words” now. One loss and your invincible Aamir is nowhere to be seen. And poor ol Fakhar Zaman. Two consecutive ducks.Recommend

  • Indian Cricket Fan

    I feel really sorry for you boss. It is a good reflection of where Pakistan stands today vis-a vis India in general and cricket in particular. A friendly piece of advice to take stock of situation and work towards it. India has already proved —- it is a superior side. So even if you win Asia cup, it is perfectly fine with us.Recommend

  • Vader

    over confidence bro?Recommend

  • Vader

    and you lostRecommend

  • goyaaka goiyaale

    Mauka Mauka : Sorry Mr Butt, but the 2018 Asia Cup isn’t coming home to pakistan. Its going to be either Bangladesh or India. lol ! Should have waited to write this article until pakistan did actually qualify or win the cup man.. well u’ll live and learn.Recommend

  • LS

    Cough cough..
    1) Pakistan lost to India miserably
    2) pakistan barely won from Afghanistan
    3) pakistan lost to Bangladesh today

    In last decade out of 14 ODI’s pakistan has LOST 64.54% of the matches…Recommend

  • LS

    over confidence has always been their poison both the players and the people like this author. In last 14 ODI’s that India has played with pakistan in over a decade they won ONLY 5 i.e Lost 64.5% of times. Amir is an average bowler.. When Rohit pointed that out during CT 17 people were mad at him for favoring JJ Bumrah vs Amir. Look at their statistics today.. Bumrah is MUCH MUCH better…Recommend

  • LS

    would you now wake up from your dream after worst defeat of your lifetime that too thrice in Asia cup 2 at our hands and 1 at second rung team of Bangladesh and BOTH team played WITHOUT their top players.Recommend

  • Indian Cricket Fan

    Mauka Mauka. Sorry Pakistan.Recommend

  • LS

    You rightly described yourself as a fanatic… its quite evident…Recommend

  • http://Toi.com Rishabh ranjan

    Well you shouldn’t have been so overconfident after performing against Zimbabwe,Ireland…Recommend

  • Lalit

    Very accurate prediction…..lol!Recommend

  • Veer Singh

    Haha, Pakistan was thrashed by India twice & knocked out. How foolish do you look now!Recommend

  • abhi

    very funny article. probably a club team would have performed better than Pakistani team.Recommend

  • gp65

    *”perhaps calling it a battle would be an insult to Amir, as he has dominated Sharma throughout their interaction and made him eat his own words”*
    Oh well. Care to explain why Amir is being dropped from the Australia series?Recommend

  • gp65

    Not only is it a biased article, it gave no credit to the other teams such as Bangladesh (against whom Pakistan lost) or Afghanistan (against whom Pakistan had a close shave – winning with barely 3 balls to spare). As far as India is concerned, we know what happened.
    If your article had not been so biased, it would not have overestimated Pakistan so much or underestimated its opposition so much either.Recommend

  • Brijesh Kumar

    Asia cup 2018 is staying while Pakistan is going “HOME”. Tch Tch TchRecommend

  • Kulbhushan Yadav

    Lets understand the concept of Father and Son. Father is an individual who makes the son. IN other words, a Son comes out of his father. So unless you gave birth to your own aboo, Pakistan can not be India’s father.Recommend

  • Rahul

    Did you watch Fakhar and “big hitter” Asif Ali’s performance in the Asia Cup? HahahaRecommend

  • http://Toi.com Rishabh ranjan

    Could have written a better column easily myself as far as rohit-amir clash is concerned even Pakistanis will agree he is normal bowler and infact sometimes below par while rohit is legend in making limited over cricket as a batsmen…..Recommend

  • Veer Singh

    India crowned Asia Cup champions for 7th time & Pakistan now officially the worst team in Asia among countries with test status. This is what happens when you brag & declare yourself “world beaters” after one fluke win and beating up on the world’s weakest teams. Hopefully you’ve learned a valuable lesson here!Recommend

  • Jayman

    I have to give it to you. To support this Pakistani bunch with such verve is really commendable. This is perhaps the worst side Pakistan has ever put on the cricket field in their long and impressive history. I think you took the Champions Trophy win too seriously.Recommend

  • vijay2day

    We Indians are still laughing at the joke of Pakistan winning….Recommend